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      Iraq Says It Has Handed Over Documents U.N. Inspectors Requested


    From Wire Reports
    Monday, November 23, 1998; Page A24

    BAGHDAD, Iraq, Nov. 22—Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf accused U.N. arms inspectors today of "a savage campaign . . . of disinformation" in their quest for more documents about Iraq's banned weapons. He said Iraq already has handed over millions of papers to monitors and that no more files exist.

    "Anything relevant to the work of disarmament we had already handed over," he said, adding that Iraq has given 2,188,020 pages of documents to monitors from the U.N. Special Commission and International Atomic Energy Agency since weapons inspections began in 1991.

    Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said some documents in question are long lost, and he accused chief weapons inspector Richard Butler of trying to create a pretext to continue sanctions or allow the United States and Britain to attack.

    "Butler has asked for a series of alleged documents . . . that do not exist," Aziz said.

    Butler, head of the Special Commission, in charge of ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, last week asked Iraq for 12 categories of documents. Baghdad rejected all but two of them.

    Nizar Hamdoon, Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, said Iraq will respond to the request formally on Monday at the United Nations. He said Iraq faces a problem of trying to prove the negative. "I think it is almost impossible. The problem here is the lack of trust that we have on both sides of the issue, I believe. We'll try to find a way of getting the [U.N.] secretary general more involved. Getting the Security Council more involved probably will bridge that gap."

    National Security Council spokesman David Leavy said the Iraqi responses about the existence of documents are convoluted, and that there are "different responses" depending upon which Iraqi official is speaking. Leavy urged cooperation.

    "If we conclude Iraq does not intend to live up to its commitments and [the Special Commission] can't do it's job, we remain prepared" to carry out the military attack President Clinton canceled last week, he said in a telephone interview from South Korea, where the president was finishing up a five-day Asia trip.

    Butler cautioned that it was premature to talk of bombing raids against Iraq for not handing over the documents he requested. "Talk about [Iraq's] shortfall in the last few days on documents leading automatically to some kind of enforcement is a bit exaggerated," he said in a CNN interview, adding that the U.N. Security Council would discuss the impasse Monday.

    "We believe that Richard Butler has outlined a very fair path for Iraq to follow," said National Security Council spokesman P.J. Crowley, adding that Iraq's "response on the document front is insufficient."

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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